Be True to Yourself And Let Your Conscious Be Your Guide
By Keeley. A. Stevens, Sgt. Folsom State Prison (Retired)
I began my career as a Correctional Peace Officer on December 27, 1982 at Folsom Prison. I quickly found out that The California Department of Corrections was the most unorganized organization I had ever seen. There was no consistency and all decisions seemed to be discretionary and political, if you know what I mean. It was quite a contrast to the U.S. Air Force that I had just gotten out of two and a half years earlier where everything was consistent, organized, disciplined and “in order”.
I initially thought that CDC was a huge joke and wanted to get the hell out as soon as I could! But the money was good and as most do, I got caught up in the financial end of things and started chasing the all mighty dollar. Still thinking that CDC was a joke as far as an “organization”, I continued my “career” and pretty soon many years had gone by.
Over the years I had seen a lot of what I would consider “corruption”, but I was never directly involved in it. I had seen lot of favoritism towards “the chosen few” and good looking women Officers/staff, not to mention the nepotism. Many other forms of “corruption” occurred but none that ever directly involved me. I always wondered to myself, if I WAS ever directly involved, what would I do? Well, here is my story and after reading it, ask yourself what you would do:
It was July 30, 2005 and I was so looking forward to retiring on my 50th birthday in November of 2006. I was the Outside Patrol Sergeant on 3rd Watch at Folsom Prison. The temperatures in the summer at Folsom Prison are well into the 100’s and the Entrance Gate had never had an air conditioner installed in the many years I had been there. I drove out to the Folsom Minimum Support Facility or “the camp” as we called it to fill out a work order to try to get A/C installed. As I began to fax the work order I heard the Camp Sgt. over the radio call for a Code One response to the camp. In CDC there is three main levels of emergency response, Code One, Code Two and Code Three, with Code Three being the most urgent and requiring all available staff to respond. As I looked out the window of the office, I observed several inmates running into the back of 1100 dorm. I immediately pulled out my can of pepper spray and began running towards 1100 dorm ordering all inmates in the area to get down as I did. As I entered the dorm I observed several inmates in a melee in the middle of the dorm. I responded to the middle of the dorm, ordering all inmates to get down and discharged my entire can of pepper spray into the crowd. I did not observe any other staff in the immediate area and realizing that, I backed out of the dorm. As I got outside other groups of inmates were converging on the area and each other and I again ordered them to get down on the ground threatening to spray them with my can of pepper spray. Of course the can was empty but they didn’t know that and most of them complied. I realized that almost no other staff had responded because the Camp was on a different frequency than inside the walls of the prison. I quickly changed radio channels and called for a Code Two and Code Three responses.
Now that was pretty much the entire incident and is what my report reflected. I did not, in my report, identify any specific inmate that was involved. Now I understand that not identifying any inmate may not have been appropriate, but that will have to be another argument for another day.
Let’s fast forward to nearly two weeks later as I was standing outside the Entrance Gate at the end of 3rd Watch.
At that time, the Lt., or Lt. #1 as I will call her, who was the Incident Commander, walked past me on her way out of the prison and stated, “By the way, you did six 115’s on that incident at the Camp.” CDC Form 115 is an Inmate Discipline Report. I responded by saying, “I did? Shouldn’t I review them and sign them?” She stated, “No. That has already been taken care of”. She then continued towards her car in the parking lot.
Anyone who knew me at the time knows that I write my own reports and most of the time I do a pretty good job of it. I have ALWAYS written my own reports and to me, it is a matter of honesty and integrity no matter what type of report it is. I always prided myself on honesty and having the integrity to stand up to any scrutiny. So needless to say, when this Lt. told me that six 115’s had been written and supposedly authored by me, I was pretty upset by it. Later I discovered that, not only had these 115’s been written by this Lt., she had also signed MY NAME to them as if I was the one who actually signed them!
Like I said, I was really looking forward to retiring the next year so deciding what to do about this, what I again would call “corruption”, took a lot of thinking. Meanwhile, as the disciplinary process continued, I received a call at home from the Senior Hearing Officer, Lt. #2, a well liked and respected Lt. who was conducting a 115 hearing on one of the inmates. He asked me how I identified the inmate as being involved. I had to tell him that I did not write the 115 and that Lt. #1 wrote it and signed my name to it. He acknowledged that and that was the end of the conversation. The very next day, an Officer approached me at the Entrance Gate telling me that he was assigned as the Investigative Officer assigned to one of the inmates who received one of these 115’s. He asked me a group of questions that the inmate wanted asked. (In CDC, if an inmate is locked up in segregation and is not able to find and ask a question of “witnesses” to what he has received a 115 for, he is assigned an Investigative Officer who finds the witness’s and asks them questions on behalf of the inmate). I told this Officer, Correctional Officer #1, the same thing I had told the Senior Hearing Officer the day before, that I didn’t write the 115’s and that Lt. #1 had wrote them and signed my name to them. I told him I did not have answers for any of his questions.
As time went on and I continued to debate as to how I should handle this situation, I discovered that the Senior Hearing Officer found most of the inmates involved guilty and assessed them 90 days loss of credit. I also discovered that the Investigative Officer, Correctional Officer #1, had pretty much answered all the questions for me in his report as if I had actually responded to the questions from the inmate.
Now things are really getting complex and this situation is growing worse. It was then that realized I had to be true to myself and l let my conscience be my guide. I knew this was corruption, was wrong and certainly isn’t the way we in CDC conduct business.
Many would say, “What the hell. It’s only inmates.” For me, again, it goes back to honesty and integrity. I had prided myself my entire career on my honesty and my integrity and here I was, a year to retirement and this situation had compromised everything that I stood for all these years.
So, after thinking very hard and very long, I took the only step that was available to me and that was to report it to the Custody Captain who in turn, ordered me to write it down in a report and he submitted it to Internal Affairs for investigation.
It was not an easy decision for me to make and it was a decision that I didn’t want to make. I knew that very good people would get hurt if the investigation was conducted correctly and was complete.
The following is the result of this investigation and other factors affecting the individuals involved:
Chief Deputy Warden:- Forced to retire
Associate Warden: —–Terminated/fired
Correctional Captain: –Terminated/fired
Correctional Lt.#1: ——Terminated/fired
Correctional Lt.#2: ——Terminated/fired
Correctional Officer: —-Terminated/fired
It should be noted that Correctional Lt. #2 and the Correctional Officer were reinstated due to Administrative errors in the investigation.
Now ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation. In the end, I had to be true to myself and let my conscience be my guide. I hope you would too.
I know that a lot of times we tend to get lazy and sign each other’s reports and if you do that, make sure you sign your own name and indicate that you are signing for the author of the report. Personally, I wouldn’t even do that. I would ALWAYS make sure that you sign and author your own reports. Follow your supervisor’s advice about what to include and the format for your report, but make sure you author and sign it. If not, things can get pretty complicated as you can see.
Thanks to Keeley Stevens for an excellent contribution. Paco, like Sergeant Stevens, wrote his own reports. Of course, in those days it was the practice to take the best report (mine) and alter the reports of other officers to match. So, my fellow CO’s were often required to sign off on reports they didn’t actually write. Then, as now, I recommended retaining a copy of the original, hand written report–If nothing else you can prove you submitted a factual report and assert duress in being coerced to sign off.
Paco welcomes submissions from active and retired corrections employees and concerned citizens. Active correctional officers are reassured, confidentiality is guaranteed–If you need anonymity, you shall have it. Paco cannot be compelled to divulge sources to CDCR. –